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Nevada’s 4-H youth step up during crisis

by Nevada State News

RENO – Nevada’s 4-H youth and their families aren’t wasting any time during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, they’ve sprung into overdrive to support their communities to make and provide face masks for front line workers.

It started when Elko County Emergency Operations Center put in a call to the University of Nevada, Reno Extension saying they needed face masks. The Extension enlisted the help of their 4-H youth across the state, who have, since late March, made masks not only for the Operations Center but also school district nutrition services workers, healthcare workers in Ely, and to community members.

“We are now calling upon 4-H youth, volunteers and their families to help make and provide face masks,” said Carrie Stark, Nevada 4-H program director with Extension. “Our youth are very community-service oriented and are willing to help. And, our 4-H staff, as well as our volunteer club leaders, will help coordinate the efforts, making sure the masks get to those who need them and ensuring appropriate health and social-distancing recommendations are followed throughout the process.”

Hannah, 9 years old and first-year 4-H member, sews a face mask. Photo by Laura Wells.
Hannah, 9 years old and first-year 4-H
member, sews a face mask.
Photo by Laura Wells.

Stark said engaging youth in the mask-making project also provides them with something constructive to do now, while they may be struggling with the confinement of the stay-at-home order. 

“By participating in the project, youth can feel a connection with their fellow 4-Hers statewide, as well as a connection with their communities,” she said. “It can help them feel they are all doing something useful during this crisis. We are encouraging them to first make some masks for their own family, and then make some for those in need in their communities.”

Now that the word is out that 4-Hers are helping to make masks, more requests are coming in.

“I’d say that requests are coming in faster than our 4-H members can sew,” said Jill Baker-Tingey, Extension educator in Elko County. 

Participating in the project has allowed 4-H members to learn more than just sewing. According to Stark, the youth are developing vital character and leadership skills and compassion. And they’re learning about public health as they make masks according to CDC recommendations and follow social distancing guidelines.

Businesses and others not involved in 4-H can help with the mask-making project by providing mask materials or funds for materials. Some businesses have already stepped up to provide fabric, and JoAnn Fabrics and Craft Store (a national 4-H supporter), is providing a 15 percent discount to 4-H members and leaders, for example. Those not currently involved in 4-H who wish to contribute to the Nevada 4-H face mask effort should contact:

  • In northern Nevada, Sarah Chvilicek at sarahc@unr.edu
  • in southern Nevada (Clark and Lincoln Counties, and Pahrump Area), Nora Luna, lunan@unr.edu

Those involved in 4-H wanting to participate or with questions, should contact their local Extension 4-H staff and/or club leader, or go to extension.unr.edu/4h.

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